Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says U.S. commitment to Israel's security and future is "rock solid, unwavering and enduring." However, she reiterated U.S. support for a "two-state" solution for Israel and the Palestinians.
Clinton told an influential pro-Israel group Monday that devotion to a two-state solution led the United States to condemn Israel's announcement this month to build new housing units for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem.
However, she told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee the condemnation was not about "wounded pride," but about moving forward with peace talks. Israel announced the settlement expansion plan while U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Jerusalem.
Clinton said new construction in either East Jerusalem or the West Bank undermined trust and exposed "daylight" between Israel and the U.S. that could be exploited by other parties in the region.
She said the U.S. expects Israel and the Palestinians to show flexibility as U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell visits the region in an effort to convene indirect talks between the two sides.
Clinton also told the group that forces that threaten Israel also threaten the United States and that there is no greater strategic threat to Israel than a nuclear-armed Iran.
She said a nuclear-armed Iran would not only threaten Israel but would embolden terrorists and spark an arms race that could destabilize the region.
The Secretary of State said the U.S. goal is not "incremental sanctions" against Iran but sanctions that will "bite."
She also said there is "growing international consensus" on taking steps to put additional pressure on Iran, with Russia and China moving towards possible support of applying pressure.
Israel has repeatedly urged the international community to impose sanctions on Iran. Tehran maintains its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes such as generating electricity.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Washington, where he will meet with Clinton and President Barack Obama. On Sunday, he defended settlement expansion plans, saying building in East Jerusalem is the same as building in Tel Aviv.